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How far ahead do you think?

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This was so exciting. They were moving! To another planet! Oh, she had visited Komarr of course, because papa's job is to take care of it, but that was when she was still little. She would have to leave her friends, yes, but she would return soon for boarding school and everyone would be there. And her best friend was coming too! So it was all right.

She couldn't help herself and started hopping again. "Honey, please, let me tie the ribbon and then you can go and play." She forced herself to stay still, just for a little bit more. "There! Off you go." She turned swiftly, gave Mama a peck on the cheek and ran out at full speed. "No running in the hallways, Isabel!" She slowed. A little.

There were plenty of people around, preparing their house for the celebration. She slipped around them easily and went straight to The Room. The one where all the gifts were. They weren't for her, unfortunately, but they were for her papa. And Papa was hers.

She opened the door and peeked inside. Papa was there, standing by the heavily laden table and talking to one of her uncles. Well, he wasn't her real uncle, but she'd always called him that. He didn't mind. And on the table - there were presents. She dashed towards the shining pile.

It was mesmerizing, all the shapes and colours. There were books, sculptures, data disks, bouquets of flowers. Unrecognizable things too. She grabbed the nearest thing. It looked like a locket. But lockets were for girls, who would give that to her papa? With a bit of an effort, she managed to open it. It wasn't a locket. A watch! An old one, she'd seen things like that in the museums.

She looked more closely. There was something written. An inscription, she knew that word, in honor of her father's promotion. Something was wrong though.

"Papa?" He turned and crouched down next to her.

"Yes, sweetie?" He kept calling her that, like she was a baby. Still, she liked it. She had shared that secret with her best friend when they pledged to be sisters, forever and ever.

"The date, the date of inscription is all wrong. It says 2797." She knew how to read years, and count too. "They missed the right date by 20 years!"

Papa took the watch and looked it over. Then he looked up at her uncle with an expression on his face she had never seen before. It looked... heavy. Uncle Miles smiled at them and said nothing. Papa looked back at her and picked her up in one move. "So they have. We'll forgive them. Shall we go see if the cookies are done?"

"Yes!" She was always ready for cookies. Carrying her, Papa strode out of the room. She looked back and down at her uncle. He was following them leisurely. She could read his expression - it was one Uncle Miles often wore, after all. Mama once described it as his 'cat that ate the canary' face. She must remember to ask what 'canary' was this time. After the cookies, of course.